Well worth the sweat

EDAH Chong, Eileen Tey Yee Lin and Soh Lin Che never thought that their love of singing would take them on the adventure of their lives! A seven-day study tour to Seattle in the United States packed with activities, sightseeing and visits to renowned companies like Microsoft and Boeing. 

The winning team of the HSBC Young IT Entrepreneur Awards 2003, who called themselves Team Epsilon, had worked hard since the competition was launched last August to come up with a brilliant but not impractical business idea that took off from their love of singing. 

Their idea, a satellite karaoke channel certainly impressed the judges. Their presentation during the judging ceremony in March was just as memorable as they started off singing Oh Carol and even managed to get HSBC Bank Malaysia deputy chairman and chief executive officer Zarir J. Cama, who was chief, judge, to sing a few lines! 

The trio are second-year management undergraduates from Multimedia University (MMU) who are also housemates and good friends.  

''When it was first announced that we had won, I couldn't believe it as I had a sleepless night before the presentation imagining all sorts of problems cropping up!'' said Edah, 22, from Labuan. 

''My friends and I love singing and find it expensive to rent a karaoke room. So we decided to create an alternative that allows those who like singing to access thousands of songs in various languages in their own homes,'' she added. 

She said their satellite-broadcasting outfit called Kara Channel – short for Karaoke Channel – works along the same lines as pay-per-view movies. 

“But now that we have gone on the trip and spoken to all the experts, we are planning to rewrite our business plan. Who knows, we may get our idea off the ground in the future,” she said with optimistism. 

Edah said she would be contacting some of the people the team had met during the trip for more advice. 

''Now that we are back home, we have been busy preparing for our exams and finishing our assignments,'' she said, adding that the team had adjusted back to the 15-hour time difference without a problem. 

Besides the trip, the team had also won RM15,000 and a trophy for each team member. 

The HSBC Young IT Entrepreneur Awards 2003 is a challenging three-round competition open to full-time undergraduate degree or diploma students at public or private universities and colleges. Students had to develop an innovative business plan that involved the use of IT in a significant way. 

The contest was first organised by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited in Hong Kong in 2000 and introduced in Malaysia a year later.  

The Star is the media partner for the contest. 

Also on the trip were the first and second placed teams from Hong Kong.  

The top team from Hong Kong, “MattRae and Company” comprising Rachel Lui and Matthew Chang are final year students in accounting and management information systems, and computer science respectively from the City University of Hong Kong.  

Rachel said their business plan is to create a software which provides tailor-made fashion and image consulting services. 

''I like fashion and spend a lot of time shopping. Sometimes I forget what I have already bought so this is why Matthew and I worked on a programme where we could record our purchases so we would not buy the same thing again. 

''Besides this, the software would be able to make three selections for a particular occasion too. For example, you type in 'party', then the software would give three suggestions for what to wear, complete with handbag and shoes too,'' she said. 

Team T Star, comprising Ariel Mak and Vanessa Wong, first-year arts and business administration students respectively from Hong Kong University, who won second place, paid their own air fare to join the winning students on their trip. ''We didn't want to miss the study tour as we knew the company visits had been specially arranged,'' said Vanessa. 

Ariel explained their idea is an e-business offering online psychological service for employees. ''We got our idea from reading news reports of people committing suicide because they were depressed when they became unemployed or had work stress problems. 

''Coming from an Asian society, people tend to be shy about seeking psychological help because they are afraid of being perceived as crazy. We thought that an online psychological service would mean people can get the help they need and at the same time not have to worry about their identity being found out,'' said Vanessa.  

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